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Culture has been called 'the integrated sum total of learned behavioural traits that are manifest and shared by members of a society' (Hoebel, 1960, p.168). Culture includes both conscious and unconscious values, ideas, attitudes and symbols which shape human behaviour and are transmitted from one generation to another. Attitudes and values differ from one country to another resulting in different cultural norms. Therefore, whether it be selling products or organizing, financing and managing its global operations, these differences will affect every firm operating on a global basis.
Companies can benefit in a great extend from understanding the nature and dimensions of a specific culture and how these affect the daily work and organizational processes. Culture awareness enables the development of advanced company policies and practices, in order to deal effectively and efficiently in an abroad business environment. In many cases the lack of cultural awareness has cost businesses great money and expanding opportunities. The exact knowledge, of how the principles of intercultural communication impact on business, has the potentiality to give an incontrovertible advantage in companies in future.
In the business world today, borders are blending and multi-national mergers are causing many company nationalities to become indistinct. As the globalization of markets rapidly increases, many companies are finding international expansion a necessity of competition. North America is greatly affected by this movement towards a global market, and many companies are finding it extremely important to adapt to other cultures.
The most considerable obstructions to successful international marketing involve misinterpretations and contrary views resulting from cultural differences. Being both aware of some of these issues and prepared to make the necessary accommodations can save companies time, effort, and a considerable amount of money.
Marketing strategy, as summarised by Drummond & Ensor (1999) '...involves achieving a superior competitive position within a defined market...it involves segmentation, targeting and positioning.' However, those three aspects of the strategy to achieve a superior competitive position would, possibly, require the consideration of cultural differences within and between the target markets.
So, an important point begins to take shape - that the consideration of 'cultural issues' is important to our marketing strategist not necessarily because of the differences in culture that almost certainly exist between target markets, but because of the effect of the cultural issues upon the business dynamic of the target market. This is to be explored herein.
The Effect on Business of the 'Dominant Idea'
Business organizations, like other social systems require a fast and effective communication process in order to successfully reach their targets. International business organizations require effective communication in a number of levels. Effective communication among people of the same culture and language is sometimes difficult. In an attempt of effective communication, with people of different cultural and linguistic background - different beliefs, perceptions, religion - the chance of misunderstanding increases. Communication takes place through messages, encoded symbols, language, and body language. The world has about 3000 distinct languages and around 10000 dialects. In many countries the use of more than one language is a very common phenomenon. Languages and culture are intimately intertwined as language is the vehicle through ideas and perceptions expressed. Some aspects of a community's culture are expressed in language it uses. Also a detailed knowledge of the language can provide illuminate in sights into the relevant culture. An ignorance of the nuance of a particular language can create difficulties in understanding the messages.
For example, Daimler - Chrysler, the car manufacturers sold poorly the "Nova" car model in the biggest part of the Latin America, where the word "No-va" is slang for "does not move". In the case of international communication, the possibility of linguistic misunderstanding is always attainable.
In terms of international marketing and negotiations, Theodore Huebener stated that
"Knowledge of a customer's language has a districts sales value. This is particularly true in Latin countries where business conferences are conducted in a leisurely and unhurried way, in a high social atmosphere. The American businessman who can speak the foreign tongue fluently and who can make intelligent comments on the art and literature of the country will gain not only the business but also the respect of the person he is dealing with..."
Another way of communicating across culture is the non-verbal communication.
Non-verbal communication is an effective way of sending messages about your feelings and emotional states, elaborating on your verbal messages, governing the timing and turn talking between communicators. Non-verbal communication functions in many interesting ways. The knowledge of non-verbal repertoire of another country can be considered very beneficial for an international businessperson. Efficient communication can be achieved in a bargain. Thus, all imminent problems can be solved and give great potentials for a successful interaction in the future.
An inappropriate gesture may have a catastrophic effect on a deal. Misunderstanding between cultures can often occur and put barriers to business and economic transactions. If our communication ability reaches a mature level, then we can understand others easier and make ourselves easier to be understood by others. Hence, we can be more effective personally and furthermore effective in the business environment. In this point it could be proved very useful to mention problems in international business sourcing from stereotyping and preconceived ideas. Stereotypes are impressions of people who are strongly influenced by widely shared assumptions about the personalities, attitude, and behavior o people based on group membership, such as ethnicity, nationality, sex, race, or class. An international company awareness of national differences should not be clouded by stereotyping. It is always easier to stereotype people and groups of another culture. Stereotypes distort intercultural communication because they lead people to base their messages, - transmitted and received - on false assumptions. Summarizing all the above, stereotyping can cause serious problems to economic and business negotiations.
Managers of multicultural companies need to assess the importance of the intercultural communication factors likely to be encountered while doing business in various foreign markets. Each culture has its own symbols, codes, values, perceptions, and different ways of responding to situations. A form of understanding another culture is through its language (verbal, non-verbal), as well as through its history, mixing with domestic social groups, introduce oneself with the current working environment, and living in the country for several years. This is a utopian goal for the majority of managers of international business. But, it seems more realistic to experience those cultural influences in the firm's future transactions. Thus, the company has to analyze and comprehend the structure of the social groups, and the way they conceive and react, so it can finally understand the general buyer behavior of that culture. It is now obvious, that many times the standards of living and consuming are often set by the lifestyle -therefore the culture - of the society.
Understanding the cross cultural differences an organization can have a wide picture of the environment that wishes to expand. The effective "know how" can help the organization develop the appropriate work, advertising, promotion, and sales environment in a subsidiary abroad, of for expatriate employees inside the home country. Most of the times, the adaptation, in a new cultural environment can create confusion, anxiety, frustration, or even depression. The debate wherever companies should design personnel policies and reward systems around cultural values has been listed in many strategic management books. Currently, many "forward thinking" companies tent not to, because of their concern in stereotyping certain cultures. Instead, those companies have decided to "reengineer" themselves which involves an attempt to chance their culture usually to a team orientation. The importance of cooperate culture between the counter foils of the firm is inestimable. It will be an extremely flexible culture, able to decode, analyze and assimilate any other culture or sub-cultures in a very short period of time.
In business today, an advanced knowledge of linguistic and cultural differentiations is not just useful, but the key to a successful future in a global business environment.
Doing business over borders and through time zones has become commonplace in the twenty-first century. Technological advancements in communication and travel make it possible to do business across the globe almost instantaneously. Doing business with multiple cultures can be a challenging venture. International communication skills of an organization can determine success or failure.
In order to interact with different cultures, it is necessary to understand the basic characteristics of the culture. This type of understanding helps to make adjustments and accommodations. We must rid our minds of pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, and prejudices. It is imperative that one be knowledgeable about such topics as: context, traditions, social rules, etc. It is equally important to possess competent listening skills and to be aware of one's own nonverbal messages.
The ability to adapt to an intercultural perspective is probably one of the most crucial aspects of doing business in today's "global village
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